The big news for local researchers is the addition of over half a million Bristol parish records to FamilySearch. These cover Church of England parishes from 1837 onwards, and you may find BMD entries as late as the 1930s.
Records have been added for other parts of the England as well, but we are particularly fortunate. You should also know that the Society, which has transcribed and published the same records for the period 1754 to 1837, has agreed that these should be added to FamilySearch in due course. That will leave the pre-1754 records, which will be more difficult to transcribe and will take longer to complete. Many of the non-conformist records for our area have also been added to FamilySearch.
The downside to this good news is that many of the new records have been wrongly attributed to the parish of Abbots Leigh, and this is known to affect records from Kingswood, Mangotsfield , Pucklechurch, Westerleigh, Warmley, Hanham Abbots, Hanham Christchurch, Oldland St Anne, Syston, Wick, Iron Acton, Stoke Gifford, Frenchay St John, and Frampton Cotterell. I understand that this attribution has occurred centrally, and is not an error committed by any of the volunteer transcribers, whom we should all thank for their contribution to local genealogy. FamilySearch state that “The problem is being considered and corrections to the index will be undertaken in future.”
The new FamilySearch website is at www.familysearch.org. The dataset includes not only the newly transcribed records but also records previously published on the Vital Records CD, transcribed records previously on the IGI, some census records, and others of uncertain provenance. There are also links to family trees published on Ancestral File. Unfortunately, the bigger the dataset, the more difficult it is to know which search terms to use, and this is compounded by the way data is identified. For example, “Bristol” as a search term will exclude events which happened in Clifton, Westbury on Trym or other parishes outside the city. Bristol is sometimes placed in Somerset, even when the parish is north of the River Avon. As usual, the more specific one makes the search terms, the greater possibility that the data you want will not be found. Conversely, having search terms that are too broad will result in very many results, including some from other parts of the world.
The way round this is to limit your search to a specific dataset. Under “Browse by location”, select Europe. Then click on “England, Bristol Parish Registers, 1538-1900”. If you use the “Relationship” option in Advanced Search, you can look for individuals with a named parent or spouse.
I am grateful to Chris Jefferies, a BAFHS member who has been working on these transcriptions, for information on FamilySearch. Transcribers work on their home computer, and all family historians should consider whether they can help with this worthwhile task..
The old FamilySearch site is still currently available at www.familysearch.org/Eng/Search/frameset_search.asp and information on the differences between the old and new websites can be found in this PDF guide to the changes . You can also check which parishes are covered by the IGI, and search for names in a particular parish, by going to http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~hughwallis/IGIBatchNumbers.htm but this only works on the old website.
Bristol City Council has just launched a new website with maps of Bristol from 1750 to the present day. Designed primarily to identify the location of places of historic interest and sites illustrated in the Braikenridge Collection, the site has nine maps and one aerial photograph, all of which can be enlarged and shown at the same scale. It can be found at http://maps.bristol.gov.uk/knowyourplace and offers hours of pleasure to anyone wanting to know how places have changed over the years. Although the modern maps cover the whole city, the older ones are only of the central area.
Meanwhile, the big pay sites continue to expand their coverage. Findmypast at www.findmypast.co.uk now has indexes for British overseas BMD records, and has added parish records for Wiltshire, Hampshire and Cambridgeshire, as well as Somerset marriages and apprenticeship records. These records can throw up some surprising finds, like the marriage at North Cadbury in Somerset in 1794 of George Toghill of Pucklechurch to Mary Harding of Wolston, Warwickshire.
Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk) has added a number of New Zealand records. These include electoral rolls, which are particularly useful since there are no census records available. A subscription website that is sometimes overlooked is Origins.net (www.britishorigins.com). Many of the records in the British Origins series are specific to the London area, but they are building up a National Wills Index, and the Irish Origins series includes some passenger lists which may not be found elsewhere.
P & O has a long history as a shipping line, and a new website aims to make this history available to the general public. There is an extensive archive of information about individual ships and some helpful advice for family historians with interests in both crew and passengers, although no lists of people are available. The site can be found at www.poheritage.com.
The 1911 census for Scotland is now available at Scotland’s People (www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk), while the Irish Family History Foundation has published a gateway website at http://ifhf.rootsireland.ie/search.php which gives access to data held by a number of bodies and societies. You have to register before you can use the site, but searching is free. Each record actually accessed cost €5.00, but the site is easy to use and could save you a lot of time.
Finally, Troopers Hill is an area of east Bristol which was the site of many industries, but is now being reclaimed by nature. The Friends of Troopers Hill website at www.troopers-hill.org.uk/index.htm contains a lot of information about the history of the area, as well as present day activities. It contains old photographs, the Troopers Hill song, and even a page in Polish for some of the newcomers to the area.